Professor Philippa Saunders

Professor Philippa Saunders

Professor of Reproductive Steroids & Director of Postgraduate Research for CMVM

Type of staff member: Principal Investigator
Group members:

Dr Douglas Gibson (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Frances Collins (Laboratory Manager)
Arantza Esnal-Zufiaurre (Research Support)
Olympia Kelepouri (Research Support)
Ioannis Simitsidellis (PhD student 2012-2015)
Bianca DeLeo (PhD student 2013-2016)
Dr Peter Sanderson (CRUK Research Fellow/PhD studentship) 2014-2017.
Phoebe Kirkwood (MRC Tissue Repair PhD programme), 2014-2018.
Jennifer Devlin (Research Nurse, 0.4 FTE)

Saunders Lab 2015


Sex steroids are synthesised and secreted by the gonads and adrenals as well as peripheral tissues e.g. adipose and skin. Local concentrations of steroids are also modulated within target tissues, a feature of human tissues known as ‘intracrinology’ which has been implicated in development of cancers. Steroids can regulate tissue function by binding to receptors that function as ligand activated transcription factors within the nucleus with cell-specific effects dependent upon recruitment of a ‘cocktail’ of co-factors. Steroid receptors including those that recognise oestrogens may also participate in membrane-initiated steroid signaling (MISS) pathways which are typically rapid and thought to be important for vascular function. Sex steroids have both direct and indirect effects on immune cells and inflammatory processes.

Research Overview:

Reproductive tissues in both men and women display remarkable properties of resilience and repair that are regulated by steroids. During a women’s reproductive life the endometrium found within the luminal portion of the uterus (womb) retains a remarkable degree of developmental plasticity that allows it to adapt to the challenges imposed by the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. During each menstrual cycle the luminal portion of the tissue is shed at menses, an event that is immediately preceded by a marked inflammatory response characterized by increased numbers of immune cells and a ‘perfect storm’ of cytokines and prostaglandins. Remarkably, repair of the surface ‘wound’ is both rapid and scarless; this is followed by rapid regeneration of stromal and epithelial compartments accompanied by active angiogenesis. Our studies on the fundamental processes that contribute to inflammation, repair and regeneration of this tissue are using primary human cells, 3D cell cultures as well as novel mouse models.

Mouse Endometrium

Women’s health disorders including heavy periods, endometrial cancer and endometriosis all have their origins in endometrial malfunction. We are working closely with clinical colleagues to improve both diagnosis and treatment of these disorders that affect many millions of women and their families. These initiatives have included the development of a substantial resource of human tissues and primary cells, formation of an Endometriosis Centre, funding from Pharma and funding for several clinical trials.

For further information on our work, please take a look at our research in a nutshell video by clicking here.

Selected Publications:



Funding Acknowledgements:

This page was last modified on 23 June, 2016